Welcome to Wednesday’s Podcast. Our reading today is Matthew 5:21-32. Today we’ll focus on verse 22:
‘But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.’
Anger is part of life. It’s a perfectly normal human response.
We have all seen it and we’ve all experienced it.
Anger is as much a physiological as emotional. Our brains and our bodies change: adrenalin can flow, our hunger can disappear and men have an increase in testosterone.
Not all anger is wrong. Jesus experienced and displayed anger. He turned over tables in the temple area (Mt 21:12). Anger can be a really positive, powerful force for good. It can inspire us want to make a change and to challenge: to against oppressive political regimes or to campaign to for truth. As believers we are called to tackle and highlight injustice we see around us – which is a response to what the Bible calls righteous anger. The Bible also talks about the ‘wrath of God’ – God’s anger at sin and ungodly living.
There is however anger that is unhelpful and harmful.
The Sermon on the Mount – or Jesus’ manifesto – is very challenging on this. The standard is set very high and Jesus is very clear.
The context for today’s verse is that the religious leaders, Scribes and Pharisees and the like, had been debating the minutia of the legal interpretation of the sixth commandment (Ex 20:13) – Do Not Kill. Was it just for murder? Was I ever lawful to take a life and so on?
Jesus goes for the heart of the issue: what causes someone to want to murder? This action starts in the heart and it starts with anger.
So, for Jesus, harbouring anger at someone is the same as murder.
He is blowing the ethical debate around the interpretation for the sixth commandment out of the water.
We have all been angry with someone. We’ve all had unpleasant thoughts about someone. Most of us will have exploded at someone.
I once heard of a student who was sharing a house with someone he didn’t like. Each night he would take the guy’s toothbrush and rub it round the inside of the toilet. This is passive anger!
In 1 John 3:15 Jesus says ‘anyone who hates a brother is a murderer…’
Jesus takes anger really seriously and he wants us is to deal with it really quickly. Not to let it fester. If we don’t deal with anger it overflows – and it can lead to bitterness where our hearts harden, and that can lead to hatred.
Bitterness and hatred can have a serious effect on our lives. Not only can it affect our mental health, but some say it can affect our physical health too.
Roald Dahl captures this in his book The Twits. Here’s how he describes Mrs Twit:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
Whether this it true or not – unresolved anger can really affect us.
How do we deal with it?
The US chatshow host Stephen Colbert on the Late Late show interviewed former US President Jimmy Carter, now 93. Colbert asked him: ‘how did you deal with your political enemies?’ Carter paused for a moment and then said ‘I dealt with the animosities I used to cherish and forgave them.’
That’s such a powerful line: ‘Dealt with animosities I used to cherish’.
Jesus’ words in v 23 urge us to deal in a very practical and real way with anger. He offers two pictures: one a courtroom and one in the temple. One in a temple – get right with someone before worship. That’s the same for us.
Every Sunday at STC we share the ‘peace’. There’s a deeper meaning to this than perhaps we realise. That’s the moment in the gathering (as it was intended) for people who have anger with each other to deal with it in the spirit of the New Testament: to sit down and be at peace, to work it out.
After all one of the Beatitudes described at the beginning of the Sermon – is ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.
There’s no way to mince Jesus’ words today – he is encouraging us in the strongest possible terms, to deal with our anger.
How can we put into practice Jesus’ words in v 23? Is there someone we need to see? Talk to? Call? Write a letter or email?
Lord Jesus, these words are challenging. I pray today that we will put these words into practice. Help us today, where we need to, to say sorry or make peace.
READING: Matthew 5: 21-32
‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
‘Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
‘It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.